National Inquiry into Workplace Sexual Harassment

Release Date: 
20 June 2018
Media release

Australian women have the right to be safe in their homes, in their communities and in their workplaces.

That’s why the Turnbull Government is supporting practical action to address sexual harassment, today announcing it will contribute $500,000 towards the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace to be led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

“No one should have to suffer sexual harassment at work, or in any other part of their lives,” the Minister for Women, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP said.

“This inquiry will consider the drivers of sexual harassment in the workplace, the use of technology and social media, and the legal framework, as well existing practices to inform practical recommendations that will assist Australian workplaces deal with this sensitive and difficult issue.”

“We already know that the personal and career consequences of workplace sexual harassment are very significant. The organisational impacts are also substantial, including reduced productivity, high staff turnover, absenteeism, compensation claims and early retirement. The Inquiry will draw on economic modelling so we will have a better sense of how much it is costing individual Australians as well as Australian businesses.”

Sexual harassment continues to pervade Australian workplaces. More than 20 per cent of people over 15 years old in Australia have been sexually harassed, with 68 per cent of those harassed in the workplace.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is uniquely placed to undertake a national inquiry into this issue, due to its independent status, its legislative mandate in relation to sexual harassment under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), and specific expertise in relation to workplace sexual harassment. The AHRC is currently undertaking an expanded Fourth National Workplace Sexual Harassment Survey, with final results due in August 2018. The Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace will run for twelve months and cost a total of $900,000.

“Recent prominent international and national coverage has highlighted the prevalence and detrimental impact of sexual harassment on individuals and organisations. This Inquiry will be a positive and meaningful step forward in reducing sexual harassment at work and ensuring that, where it does occur, it is dealt with carefully and appropriately,” Minister O’Dwyer said.

The funding committed to the AHRC inquiry follows significant actions already taken by the Turnbull Government to improve women’s safety in the home, at work and online.

To date the Turnbull Government has committed well in excess of $300 million to address women’s safety. The most recent Federal Budget included an additional $54 million for women’s safety initiatives, including $11.5 million for 1800 RESPECT, $6.7 million for DV-alert, $14.2 million for the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to help make cyberspace safe for women, and $22 million to combat elder abuse.

The Turnbull Government is also continuing to put in place the right settings to deliver a stronger economy to provide the right economic settings for women to help them work, save and make choices about their lives.

More women are working than ever before, with over 5.8 million now employed in Australia. The Government is committed to ensuring that women have every opportunity to engage in paid work, have the right support to expand their skills, take advantage of employment opportunities and to save for their retirement.

The Minister for Women will build on the Government’s efforts to improve women’s economic security when she delivers a Women’s Economic Security Statement in Spring.